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Choosing a Jewish Life: A Handbook for People Converting to Judaism and for Their Family and Friends

4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,080 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
Married to a convert herself, Anita Diamant provides advice and information that can transform the act of conversion into an extraordinary journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth.

Here you will learn how to choose a rabbi, a synagogue, a denomination, a Hebrew name; how to handle the difficulty of putting aside Christmas; what happens at the mikvah (ritual bath) or a
Paperback, 304 pages
Published February 24th 1998 by Schocken
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(showing 1-30 of 1,824)
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Michael Benami Doyle
Jul 04, 2011 Michael Benami Doyle rated it it was amazing
This book really lays out the details of becoming a Jew-By-Choice, from why others have made the decision, to what to expect from your rabbi and your learning experience during your months of study, to the actual rituals of conversion, post-conversion celebrations, and your first year as a new Jew. Written from a liberal (Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist) perspective, the book is written for both prospective converts through marriage and those considering Judaism for personal reasons. It ...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Sep 07, 2008 ♥ Ibrahim ♥ rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everybody!
The author is a real person and when you read her book you can't help but fall in love with her and her Judaism. She is distinguishably brilliant and has a charming good sense of humor. I have always needed a book like that to tell me where to start if I am contemplating the "choosing" of Judaism. I admire her boldness. I love people with conviction who stand up for something and indeed she beautifully stands up for her Jewish faith.

In the house of some Egyptian Jews, I told Joyce in excitement
Sep 04, 2011 Pauline rated it really liked it
This was my first Jewish related book that I read. The reason why it interested me is because a friend of mine is Jewish. I tend to read up on what other people are, in order for me to better understand certain aspects (thus is why I have a couple of Mormon books in my already-read list).

I just so happen to come across this book on a bookshelf of another friend of mine. I think this book is a starting point in getting to "know" the makeup of Judaism. I definately ALWAYS thought of Jewish/Judaism
Jan 09, 2008 Erinn rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone converting or who knows someone who is
Shelves: judaism
I read this book as part of my conversion process. It pretty much answered all my questions regarding the process of converting, the ambiguity surrounding 'who is Jewish?', converting children, dealing with friends and family, and being naked in the mikvah (which I was a little nervous about). I recommend this book to anyone who is converting or knows someone close who is converting, it is full of good information and useful tips about how to spend your life as a new Jew.
Dec 13, 2010 Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I am getting into a bad habit of reading others reviews before I write my own, which makes me want to react to other reviewers' comments. I will limit myself to this: the subtitle says it pretty well, "A Handbook for People Converting to Judaism and for Their Family and Friends." This is about conversion and the issues surrounding it. I think she does a nice job and I saw myself in here quite a bit. For those looking for more about Judaism, the history, the traditions, the beliefs, and the debat ...more
Jan 05, 2013 Jim rated it it was amazing
While I agree with the criticisms expressed here, that the book is overbroad in some areas and assumes too much in others --and that it is unapologetically non orthodox--no one is going to read this book in a vacuum. As part of my (for lack of a better phrase) "coming out" as a Jew by choice, this book was instrumental in relieving a great deal of anxiety about the process and really helped me decide to ultimately take the (in this case literal) plunge. After years of reading about Judaism in th ...more
Mar 23, 2008 KaraAnne rated it really liked it
This was one of the first books I read after meeting my (now) husband. Before getting too deep into a relationship with him, I wanted an idea of what it might be like should we decide to marry. It was very helpful for me, and helped me realize that choosing to be Jewish was something I wanted/needed regardless of the outcome of our relationship...the bonus is that three years later we were married!

This is the first book I went to for information on converting to Judaism. I found it very helpful. It explained the details of ceremonies that a convert could expect in depth, which greatly reduced any fear at the unknown I was experiencing. My only complaint about the book is that it's not really meant to be read cover to cover, as I read it, and that isn't made clear. I was interested in parts that didn't apply to me and read them anyhow, and there was a lot of repetition from other parts--pr

Nov 28, 2014 Stephanie rated it liked it
Very interesting concepts for consideration. However, I think of conversions from or to Judaism to be more like driving my car to visit my mother while we and others get together for food, trade, and 'conversion' of the car exhaust pipe systems or converting tire rubber to a more usable form for use as asphalt. I liked the book but I approach conversion and religion in a different way...what was the need, location, tool, purpose, or problem? Does it solve or resolve it? Does it help or aid in th ...more
Nov 24, 2010 Jillian rated it really liked it
Good information for what to expect through the conversion process, but still leaves me wanting to know more. An btw, family and friends - I'm just learning, not making any decisions on anything :)
Spider Goddess
Nov 26, 2014 Spider Goddess rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book, but I feel that the author focused this book on those that convert because of a partner. It seemed that the whole book was aimed toward those in this category.

The author herself stated that she did not grow up practicing the faith, and in reform congregations, this would require that she go through a full conversion process, but not so in conservative and orthodox congregations. She did not at all cover this in her book.

Though the book had some good information, so much of
May 02, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Indispensible for my conversion process...I still pick it up every now and again, it inspires me.
Max Maxwell
Jan 02, 2010 Max Maxwell rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Um... go after some other ones first, eh?
Recommended to Max by: No one, it was in the synagogue library
Not the greatest. It wasn't broad enough for absolute beginners, because it assumed a lot of knowledge regarding Judaism aside from conversion. And yet it wasn't specific enough for the serious potential convert, because it skimmed over the specific details of pretty much everything. So this book is useful to someone in a very small window of time. It was also a little too "Oprah's Book Club" for me. A great Zen master once said, "I sell all kinds of things in my shop. If someone comes looking f ...more
Jul 30, 2011 Suzanna rated it really liked it
Shelves: judaica
While this was a little on the fluffy side, I did find it useful in a broad sense prior to and during my conversion process. It's also very positive in tone, which is soothing when you are going through the process of converting to Judaism. I was essentially raised without organized religion and after much soul-searching decided this was the path for me. People still have difficulty grasping that I am "really" Jewish and not "just converting to get married to someone Jewish" etc.
Because Judais
Mar 20, 2013 Brian rated it really liked it
I briefly glanced over some of the other reviews before I set down to write this one, and I now I feel a bit bad because I'm repeating a pretty common refrain, but nonetheless I'll continue: the book is simultaneously too specific and not specific enough.

What I mean is, while there are a few bits here and there dedicated to other cultures, the vast majority of Choosing a Jewish Life is quite obviously directed towards American Protestants. There's a lot of time spent on Christmas and one's emoti
Dec 07, 2013 Kitsuniku rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, beliefs
Was a good book overall on the topic. Did focus a lot on those converting who were or are from a Christian background, and/or have a significant other who is a born-Jew. Very little for those who are approaching the idea of converting on their own. Though, it is understandable since it isn't common for a person to convert to a belief without the influence of someone else in their life.
Anita does give pointers as to seeking a Rabbi to work with in converting. As well as, information to look arou
Oct 21, 2012 Mark rated it liked it
I really enjoyed the first 1/3rd of this book. It talked about what goes through the mind of potential converts and featured some helpful testimonials from Jews-by-choice about what led them to Judaism. I also found it really interesting that the book regularly calls out the tenuous relationship between liberal Judaism (Reform, Conservative, Humanist) and actually believing in g-d. I particularly liked this: "Non-Jews tend to see the act of conversion as an expression of religious faith, even th ...more
Feb 15, 2014 Chris rated it it was ok
Disappointed by this one, especially because it is a topic I personally identify with. I've really liked Diamant's writing in other places, but this one fell short on offering me any real insight. Especially bummed by the fact that the author asks big questions (What do I do about Christmas? How do I explain the need for hatafat dam brit to a teenager?) but then flat up fails to answer them with more than a short anecdote. Read this one as a possible book to recommend in class I'm working on: wo ...more
May 03, 2014 Ruth rated it really liked it
I read this book, considering the idea of converting to reform Judaism. Whether or not I choose to continue down that path, it was a wonderful, worthwhile introduction to Jewish faith and one I would recommend to anyone. The author strives to be unbiased and (mostly) succeeds, but what makes the book truly enjoyable is her obvious love for her faith, which shines through in every chapter.
Feb 21, 2016 Cory rated it liked it
Quite simply not the right book for me at this point of my life and spiritual journey. Unusually for me, I really don't have much else to add, other than that with the author's vehement admonishing against the inclusion of Christmas trees in a Jewish household, she has clearly never met my Jewish spouse - who's a forest ecologist and totally enamored with the idea of having an actual tree in the livingroom.

I will say that I had a slightly better reaction to Diamant's companion book to this one,
Simcha Wood
Jul 03, 2011 Simcha Wood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Choosing a Jewish Life is a fine resource for information on conversion to (non-Orthodox) Judaism. The book is part "What to Expect...", part discussion of the history of Jewish conversion and attitudes toward conversion, and part discussion of Jewish life. This book makes no assumptions about the reader's level of knowledge or familiarity with Judaism - which, given the book's intended purpose, is a good thing, though it may mean the book is less useful to readers who have already spent time st ...more
Destiny Dawn Long
Jan 26, 2014 Destiny Dawn Long rated it it was amazing
Incredibly informative text that answered questions I wouldn't have even known to ask. I appreciated the depth, sensitivity and scope of Diamant's text. Not only did I learn a lot, but I also felt inspired as I read. I'm really glad that I decided to purchase this title and suspect I'll be re-reading it, and referencing it in the years to come.

One of the nicest features is that she doesn't just cover the conversion process, but includes chapters on what to expect after conversion.
Jun 08, 2014 Bonni rated it liked it
What I was looking for was a perspective on the phenomenon of conversion and an intro to Judaism for outsiders. Definitely felt that I got my money's worth, even if the book didn't approach the subject of theology at all. Written well, deeply detailed, intriguing.
Mar 02, 2016 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: judaica
This book is very obviously aimed at a different types of convert than I am - someone a bit older than me, converting after being with a Jewish partner for some time. As such, there was a lot of information that I didn't need - either because I grew up with Jewish friends, had done some googling, or because I didn't have Jewish in-laws to deal with. However, there were some absolutely invaluable sections, and the final "short history of conversion" was worth the whole book. I expect to take seve ...more
Ashley-kate Inns
May 09, 2014 Ashley-kate Inns rated it liked it
This book was very good and have great insights into Judaism, but it was geared towards Americans so some of the material wasn't applicable to a British potential convert.
But it is well written and easy to follow. A good starting point.
May 14, 2008 Ju rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Individuals sincerely interested in converting to Judiasm
Shelves: jewish-reading
Although this book is listed for individuals interested in converting to Judiasm as well as their family, friends, etc. The book would only make sense if you have a basic understanding of Judiasm in the first place. Best to read another book about the basics and then tackle this book. I appreciate Anita's honesty on the joys, fears, saddness and joys one can expect when converting to Judiasm. It asks more questions than provides answers, but a good starting point prior to meeting with a rabbi.
Feb 26, 2012 Lauren rated it really liked it
This book was a nice introduction to Judaism for potential converts. Personally, I think a converted Jew can enjoy Chanukah AND a Chanukah bush (i.e., Christmas tree) but hey, I get it. Also, is an adult circumcision really necessary? Background on the impact of anti-semitism in contributing to contemporary discouragement against conversion was particularly interesting.
Ethan J
Dec 19, 2011 Ethan J rated it liked it
This was a good introduction to non-Orthodox conversion--basic but helpful as an introductory read. Because of the author's almost exclusive emphasis on liberal Judaism, the halakha of conversion was almost completely ignored. While this wouldn't be a problem for many potential Jews by choice, there are implications that definitely should have been addressed (e.g., aliyah).
Caitlin Cohn
Feb 02, 2014 Caitlin Cohn rated it it was ok
I'd give it 2.5 stars. Choosing A Jewish Life would be useful for a non-Jew with a Jewish partner. As someone with one Jewish parent who grew up with many non-religious aspects of Jewish culture (and who as someone with a non-Jewish partner), I found this book frustrating. I also disagreed with certain aspects of the book, which were too all or nothing for me.
Cassie Moffitt
Jul 04, 2012 Cassie Moffitt rated it really liked it
If you're thinking about converting to Judaism, read this book first--it helps answer a lot of questions, and does a really good job of explaining the process. It also gives the history of conversion to Judaism over time, and addresses feelings that you may come across during and even after the conversion process.
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Anita Diamant is the author of twelve books -- the newest being THE BOSTON GIRL.

Addie Baum is THE BOSTON GIRL, born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie’s intelligence and curiosity take her to the wider world of the 1910s and ‘20s: short skirts, celebrity
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